As the economy continues to kill restaurants, it also fuels the fires beneath the ever-burning rumor mill. One reason why so many stories are flying all over town is simple economics–as restaurants close, the supply of available restaurant real estate increases. Couple that with curious restaurateurs looking for a bargain or just checking out possibilities, and sparks fly.
While some entrepreneurs are seriously searching for deals, others may just be kicking grease traps and fantasizing. (Restaurant real estate porn if you will.) No matter, once anyone has poked around a few locations, the phone and e-mail lines light up like a modern day version of this.
Late yesterday, a juicy tale flowed my way. Word on the street: Bob Sambol,founder of Bob’s Steak and Chop House on Lemmon, was leaving to reconcept Hully & Mo at the Quadrangle. My source said the deal was “so done” they ‘d already picked a new name: Legends. Made sense to me—real estate mogul and owner of Hully & Mo, Tim Headington, is a Bob’s customer and friend of Sambol’s as is Mike “Mo” Modano.
I called Bob Sambol. “Hey, tell me about Legends,” I said right off the bat (at the drop of the puck). “Huh? What are you taking about?” said Sambol. “You know, your new restaurant. You’re taking over Hully & Mo and changing the name to Legends,” I said.
“I’m still here at Bob’s and business is really good,” said Sambol.”We’ve made a lot of changes and things are going really well. Our new wine guy, Ken Kuczwaj, is doing some great stuff. The people here at Bob’s have been great to me.”
Hmm. He certainly went into auto-mode awfully quick. I went for the neutral zone trap.”So, you have no idea what I’m talking about, ” I said. ”Well, yeah, I talked to them [Headington],” said Sambol. “They need some help. I’ve looked around. I’ve looked at Silver Fox [Centrum]. That place is immaculate. You could reopen it in 10 days. But my next restaurant is not going to be a steak place, it’s going to be a real New York Italian restaurant. I’m only looking now because I am curious and people call me every day with possibilities.”
Perhaps Headington and Mo (donde esta Hully in all of this?) will change the Hully & Mo concept without Sambol. After all, Modano seems to be headed to Detroit to play and Headington & Hully isn’t sexy. (Note to Mr. Headington, please don’t call it Legends. It doesn’t make me hungry or thirsty. It makes me think of strippers. However, “Modano’s” entices me to be all three.)
Anywhoo, I did “learn” one thing from rooting around yesterday: former Houston-turned-Dallas-turned Houston restaurateur Joey Vallone “has signed” a lease on the space formerly known as The Club in the Centrum. Remember Joey’s? It used to be in the space now occupied by Al Biernat’s. Joey is quite a character. Which reminds me, where in the hell is Matthew Antonovich? He never opened his restaurant in Louisville.
Stay tuned for another episode of As the Restaurants Turn.